July 13 2017

Day Trippin’ to Frankenmuth

frankenmuth travel guide

 

We all have those places that are woven inextricably into our childhood memories. Frankenmuth is that place for Chris so it is mandatory that we visit at least once a year. If you are unfamiliar, Frankenmuth is a little tourist town dubbed “Michigan’s Little Bavaria” that offers unique shopping and dining experiences. Recently, we found ourselves with a free weekend so we decided to hop in the car and pay Chris’s favorite little town a visit.

 

frankenmuth travel guide

Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland

Our first stop in Frankenmuth is usually Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland. It dubs itself as the world’s largest Christmas store and it IS huge! If you can’t find the Christmas item you are in search of at Bronner’s, then it doesn’t exist. No seriously they have everything… and just to prove our point… here’s a toilet snowman ornament for your amusement:

 

frankenmuth travel guide

All five of us love Bronner’s so for us all to agree on something you know that it has to be good.

Bronner’s is open 361 days a year and is located on 25 Christmas Lane in Frankenmuth just a short drive off of I-75. In addition to Christmas items you can purchase, you can also visit with Santa (during designated dates and times) and visit the Silent Night Chapel.

 

 

frankenmuth travel guide

 

Chicken Dinner

If you talk to anyone about Frankenmuth they will tell you that you have to eat a chicken dinner while you are there. The two places you can do that are Zehnder’s and the Bavarian Inn Restaurant which are located across the street from each other. On our day trip we had a chicken dinner lunch at Zehnder’s.

 

frankenmuth travel guide

The main dining room at Zehnder’s reminded us of a banquet room for a wedding with the staff dressed in Bavarian clothing. The chicken dinner is served family style and includes appetizers, the main course and dessert. Unfortunately we felt that the dinner did not live up to the hype, especially for the price. But of course, lots of people love the chicken dinner at Frankenmuth so you will have to decide for yourself.

 

frankenmuth travel guide

Shopping

Frankenmuth has a good assortment of shops in the downtown area and across the river in the Frankenmuth River Place Shops. You are sure to find a souvenir to take home from your adventures. For the foodies, you will find salt water taffy (Betsy’s favorite), fudge and cheese amongst other goodies.

 

frankenmuth travel guide

There is More

There are a few other things that we would recommend that you check out while you are in Frankenmuth. The Bavarian Inn Glockenspiel Tower is a much see. At noon, 3pm, 6pm and 9pm each day the clock plays music followed by a figurine show of the Pied Piper. Just steps away from the clock tower you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the streets or you can take a riverboat tour down near the River Place Shops. Both the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Zehnder’s Splash Village have indoor water parks although Zehnder’s is FAR larger and more extensive from what we’ve read (we’ve never been).

 

frankenmuth travel guide

Final Thoughts:

Betsy: While I am not emotionally attached to Frankenmuth like Chris is, I do enjoy going to Bronner’s and walking around the downtown area. Do I feel a burning need to visit every year? No. But I suffer through it because I love Chris. 😉 I do think it is somewhere you should visit at least once though.

Chris: Frankenmuth has changed A LOT over the years and is hardly the place I remember as a child. Even the famous chicken dinner wasn’t how I remembered it growing up. Despite all that, I still love to visit at least once a year. It’s not that bad of a drive for us so there’s no excuse not to right?

Category: Day Trips, Michigan | Comments Off on Day Trippin’ to Frankenmuth
July 11 2017

Day Trippin’ to Port Huron

 

port huron travel guide

 

We kicked off Betsy’s birthday week celebration with a trip to Port Huron in an attempt to satisfy her two birthday requests: beach time and adventure time. Technically she had a third request, a Kate Spade purse, but that doesn’t really line up well with our travel blog does it?

 

port huron travel guide

Fort Gratiot Lighthouse

Last year we went on a Michigan Fall Color and Lighthouse Tour so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. It is located just a short drive off of I-94 along Lake Huron. The Fort Gratiot’s Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Michigan and the 2nd oldest on the Great Lakes. The lighthouse is open year round but the hours vary based upon the season. It is free to view the lighthouse and tour the grounds but there is a fee for the official tour and to climb the lighthouse. Unfortunately we were not able to partake in the tour and climb because we were both wearing sandals and closed toe shoes were required. We did however, take in the sights and stop in at the gift shop. For those of you who are beach buffs like Betsy, there is a small beach near the lighthouse.

 

port huron travel guide

Lakeport State Park

We opted to forgo the beach near the lighthouse and instead made our way over to Lakeport State Park which is where Chris spent a lot of time during his childhood. Lakeport State Park is a Michigan State Park that offers beach access and camping. A Recreation Passport is required to enter ($11 annual fee) or you can purchase a daily pass for $9. We entered the park on the east side of Lakeshore Rd and walked over the bridge to the park. In addition to the beach there is a large grassy area with picnic tables, grills, play areas, bathrooms etc. The beach area is not large but it is clean and scenic. An added bonus is that you can see freighters going by in the distance. This was Betsy’s first time at Lakeport but it won’t be her last. You should give it a try too!

 

port huron travel guide

Freighters Eatery & Taproom

We love restaurants that provide an experience and not just a meal. Freighters Eatery & Taproom was the perfect fit for our lunch as it sits along the St Clair River overlooking the Blue Water Bridge. We were seated at a great table by the windows so we were able to see the freighters as they passed by. The food was excellent too and the menu had a wide variety of offerings with a focus on local Michigan items. Betsy had the Chicken Caesar Salad and Chirs had the Mac and Cheese. Both were excellent choices. We also both had  a Faygo Float.

The restaurant is connected to a hotel which is near the Blue Water River Walk. We recommend parking down by the River Walk and then walking across the street to the restaurant. After lunch we walked the River Walk and saw several more freighters as well as many pieces of artwork. It is a fun little area to visit!

 

port huron travel guide

Lexington

Our last stop of our day trip was a visit to Lexington. Lexington is a small beach town just north of Port Huron. We heard that it was a good place to visit so we thought we would give it a try.

We discovered that it has a cute downtown area with unique shops and small restaurants. We also visited the beach area which was very small and very crowded when we visited. The beach had a nice boardwalk to walk on, a playground area, a marina and an ice cream shop. While we had a good time in Lexington it was a little too crowded for our tastes. We preferred the beach at Lakeport State Park and our time in Port Huron over the craziness of Lexington.

 

port huron travel guide

Final Thoughts:

Betsy: I was surprised with how much I liked Port Huron. I had only passed through before on my way to Canada and I didn’t realize it had so much to offer. I grew up just south of Mackinaw City so I spent much of my summers at the beach. While I love living in the Detroit Area, I ‘ve always missed having a nice beach to go to. Lakeport is small but nice so I will definitely be spending a lot of time there now that I am aware of it. I also loved the River Walk in Port Huron. It was fun seeing the freighters up close while taking a leisurely walk along the water. Lexington on the other hand was not a good fit for me.

Chris: While technically, we’re just minutes from Lake St Clair… the beach nearby really isn’t a great place to go swimming. Lake Huron is so much “cleaner” and it’s really not that far of a drive for us… I can’t believe I haven’t taken Betsy up there sooner. Growing up we’d go to Lakeport every summer but I haven’t been back there in years so I was surprised how much Port Huron has changed since way back when. I’m sure we’ll make multiple treks up that way this summer for sure.


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Category: Day Trips, Michigan, State Parks | Comments Off on Day Trippin’ to Port Huron
June 27 2017

Memorial Day at Greenfield Village

greenfield village review

 

Greenfield Village is one of our favorite destinations in the Metro Detroit area! Chris has loved The Henry Ford since he was a child so we always try to go there several times a year. Since we both had Memorial Day off this year we decided to check out what was going on in the Village for the holiday. This year they were hosting a Civil War Remembrance event which included both military and civilian camps from the 1860s as well as various presentations throughout the day.

 

greenfield village review

The Experience:

Since it was a holiday, we fully expected Greenfield Village to be pretty busy because events such as this tend to be a big draw. The great thing about Greenfield Village is that it is so expansive so you never feel crowded even when visitation is at it’s peak. They don’t charge extra for these types of special events so admission was still $27 for a single admission or free for members (membership prices start at $65+). There were plenty of gates open to get in so we basically walked right in.

 

greenfield village review

Right off the bat we noticed that there were tents everywhere! There were literally hundreds covering every square inch of open space throughout the village. It was pretty amazing to see all of the volunteers sporting authentic fashions of the times passing the time as one would expect people from that era to behave. Sewing, cooking in fire pits, woodcarving… things of that sort. It really enhanced the typical Greenfield Village experience.

 

greenfield village review

We took our normal route around the village, starting at the Firestone Farm and making out way towards the center for lunch. This year we were pretty excited about lunch because they had announced a NEW MENU featuring authentic period style dishes that you would often find being prepared at various houses around the village. Our resident foodie and oldest of the children was especially excited for some real ‘down home cookin’. We always eat at the Taste of History restaurant because its clean, roomy, and has something for everyone. The new menu is good, however, they did away with some of our old favorites so that was a downer. None the less, everyone enjoyed their meal so that is always a win in our book.

 

greenfield village review

After lunch we walked right into a demonstration right outside the restaurant on the village green. It was some type of memorial service for fallen Civil War soldiers, however, we had arrived late so we didn’t have a good view and couldn’t hear what was being said. A little while later we caught a mounted cavalry demonstration where soldiers riding horses completed various training exercises… it was fascinating!

 

greenfield village review

Recently, they built a new kids play area near the carousel in the village that looks like an old 1940s (?) era construction site. We’ve seen it on previous visit but never stopped in with the kids until now. We have to say that they did an incredible job with this playground and it is a must stop for anyone with kids while visiting. There was so much to do from a rock climbing wall, to a water-squirting gadget. We were very impressed and all 3 kids had a great time!

 

greenfield village review

In the end we spent about 5 hours total in our visit… we could have spent the entire day but since we’ve visited many time before we often breeze through areas we’ve done so many times before. Of course Chris always insists we stop at the gift shop on the way out as he is always looking for a new souvenir lol.

 

Final Thoughts:

Betsy: It is a rarity to find something that all five of us can agree upon but it is true that Chris and I enjoy Greenfield Village as much as the kids do. The yearly membership was a great investment as the Village always have special events like these that we can check out. Of course, Greenfield Village is great even on a non-event day too.

 

Chris: I love that we have the membership card so we can go as often as we like. If it were up to me, we’d be here every weekend lol. Betsy has heard my stories from my childhood visits …literally every single time we go… and she still humors me and listens as if I’m telling her for the first time. That’s love for ya 🙂

 

Category: Detroit, Holiday Festivities, Michigan, museum | Comments Off on Memorial Day at Greenfield Village
January 7 2015

Holidays in Henry Ford Museum & Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village – Event Review 2014




henry ford

Holidays In Henry Ford Museum:

Beginning after Thanksgiving and continuing right on until Christmas, The Henry Ford gets all done up for Christmas. There are many activities for adults and kids alike and the best part is that there is no extra charge beyond the normal museum admission. $20 for adults, $15 for children, and 4 and under are free. If you live in the area, then a membership might be the way to go so you can have unlimited access all year round. The museum’s permanent exhibits are all open and accessible during this time but you get the bonus of some added attractions such as:

henry ford

Story time in an old train car. One of the many wonderful volunteers will read aloud from a selection of children’s holiday tales.

henry ford

The most photographed object inside the Henry Ford (the Allegheny Locomotive) get’s all done up for the occasion!

henry ford

There is a giant model train display and a VERY impressive Lego City display along side the trains on the far side of the building as well. But let’s not forget about Santa…

henry ford

Not many people know this… but Santa, the REAL Santa, comes to the Henry Ford every year to visit all the children of Metro-Detroit and beyond. SERIOUSLY! If you don’t believe me go see for yourself. Unlike other places that reportedly have Santa but actually have some guy in a fake beard in the middle of the mall this is the real deal! The other perk of seeing Santa at The Henry Ford is privacy. Santa is in his own little area away from all of the crowds where he has full conversations with each and every kid. This kind of quality experience takes time so expect to wait a good long while in line. It’s always good to be prepared with snacks and other activities to help pass the time… another good tip would be to take turns waiting in line so the kids can stay distracted elsewhere in the museum if they start to get antsy. In the end it is worth it!

So don’t just take our word for it, experience it for yourself! You will find that you will be coming back year after year.

 

 

greenfield village

Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village:

After hours, on select nights throughout December, you can walk the streets of Greenfield Village as it is done up like an old turn of the century Christmas town. Tickets for this event sell out well in advance so you need to plan your trip days or even weeks ahead of time. Prices are $22 for adults, $16 for children, and kids 4 and under are free. Members do not get in free for this event, however, they do get discounted tickets and the ability to purchase them a full month ahead of the general public. They also have special dining packages at the Eagle Tavern available at a somewhat premium price (we have never been but I’m sure the experience is worth it).

greenfield village

You will find the craftsmen working away in the various shops where you can watch them make actual items that get sold right there in the village. There are carolers singing, costumed townsfolk roaming the streets spreading cheer, and even a policeman or two directing traffic.

Greenfield Village

Take a ride on a Model T and go whizzing through the village as the driver honks the little horn at the people walking by. Or have a sing along on a horse-drawn wagon as you tour the streets. Even take a ride on the Carousel, all at no extra charge!

Greenfield Village

Unlike some of the other after hours events, most of the houses are open and done up for Christmas in a manner that was typical of that time period. You can shop at the street vendors for some classic ornaments or get a hot fresh batch of roasted chestnuts for a snack… yes you can even go ice skating!

Greenfield Village

To stay warm, they have small bonfires set up and one of the bonfires we stumbled across even had s’mores! The buildings are also heated but it is advisable to dress very warm for this event because you are spending the majority of the time outside. The event is very kid friendly, however, the weather might not be so keep that in mind when bringing the little ones.

Greenfield Village

Even Santa makes an appearance! After working all day inside the museum, Santa retires to his home-away-from-home where he sits out on the balcony greeting all the boys and girls. Naturally, a few days before Christmas he must return to the North Pole in order to prepare for his big journey …and then he probably goes on vacation after that …someplace warm. 😉

Greenfield Village

The evening ends with a stunning fireworks display while they hold a Christmas Carol sing-along in the square. The gift shops stay open an extra half hour so if you’ve had your eye on something but didn’t want to carry it… you can still run in and pick it up! Overall this was by far THE best event we have ever attended at the Henry Ford for any occasion! We will definitely be going back again every year from now on.

*Disclosure – We received free entry into the Holiday Nights event in exchange for our honest review. We are, however, members and frequent visitors of the Henry Ford and toured the museum on our own. 




Category: Detroit, Holiday Festivities, Michigan, museum | Comments Off on Holidays in Henry Ford Museum & Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village – Event Review 2014
January 7 2015

Wild Lights At The Detroit Zoo – Event Review




detroit zoo

The details:

Starting mid- November, The Detroit Zoo comes alive at night with the twinkling of over five million lights. It’s dubbed “Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo” and it runs weekends and select nights from 530 – 9 pm through December 31st. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the gate PLUS a $6 parking fee (both members and non-members pay the same prices). It is STRONGLY recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance because the event sells out most nights. It is also advised that if you have your tickets you should avoid arriving early… normally we suggest the opposite but in this case there are HUGE crowds of people trying to purchase tickets at the gate and things get very congested and backed up for a good hour. The “loop” around the zoo is said to take about an hour and a half if you include the 4D movie experience. (This year is the Polar Express but we are unsure if it will be the same every year).

wild lights

 

Our experience:

This was our first visit to Wild Lights even though we are long time visitors of the zoo itself. Our motto is always to arrive early to beat the crowds but little did we know that was a mistake for this particular event. The line of cars to get into the zoo was so long that it had stopped traffic in the streets outside. Once we got in we barely managed to get a parking spot way at the very top of the parking garage and when we got to the main gate we were greeted by a huge mob. It wasn’t a terrible wait, however, we noticed as we were leaving that there were NO lines at all just a short while later.

wild lights

Once inside, things were less hectic and the crowds thinned out as we moved along. You are directed down a specific path and not allowed to roam free throughout the park. The light displays were stunning and somewhat themed by the area you were walking through. You can not, however, see the majority of the animals… the trails avoid most of the enclosures or they are blocked from view.

wild lights

The carousel was open as was the 4D Theater which was playing a condensed version of the Polar Express (not included in the ticket price). We skipped both of these attractions and continued through the trails. There were many concession stands open along the way including the Arctic Café where people could get holiday-themed snacks like hot cocoa and such. There were also warming stations every so often with space heaters or small bonfires to thaw you out on the colder nights. The full loop took us roughly an hour to complete. We did not dally in one place for too long and kept walking for the most part.

wild lights

Overall we had a great time! Next year we will have learned our lesson and will arrive after the mad rush for the gate opening. The displays were incredible and it was a fun night out with the family. We will definitely be attending this again next year!




Category: Detroit, Holiday Festivities, Michigan, Zoos | Comments Off on Wild Lights At The Detroit Zoo – Event Review
October 20 2014

Hallowe’en in Greenfield Village – Review




Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Introduction: Every October, Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan gets a spooktacular, turn-of-the-century Hallowe’en makeover. No I am not spelling Halloween incorrectly because in the early 1900s the evening was known as All Hallows’ Even and abbreviated as Hallowe’en. Now that you’ve had your history lesson for the day let me tell you about this great event!

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Details: Greenfield Village opens their doors after hours starting at 6:30 pm Friday through Sunday for 3 weeks in October for this event. Ticket prices are the same for adults and children, however, children under 2 are admitted free. (There is also a $5 parking fee per vehicle) Tickets are sold in half-hour increments through 9pm Friday and Saturday, and until 8pm on Sunday. It is highly recommended that you purchase your tickets in advance because these events sell out long before the evening begins. We can’t stress that enough: BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY! There were countless people at the ticket booth being turned away because they simply assumed they could buy their tickets at the door.

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Activities: You will not be allowed to enter the village until your scheduled time. This is to keep the crowds spaced out and allows everyone more enjoyment and less hassle as they venture around. The gift shop is open for shopping if you arrive early and need to kill some time before entry, otherwise most people just hung around the fountain near the entrance. Once inside, you will follow a path of over 1000 hand carved jack-o’-lanturns around the village where you will see spooky decorations in themed areas and several places to stop and trick-or-treat. You may bring your own bag, however, they had some available for free at the entrance. There were several small performances going on throughout the village with plenty of seating for those who wished to stay and watch. There were several food stands open as well, our favorite was one with classic cartoons playing near Menlo Park.

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Our Visit: This was our first visit to the Hallowe’en event at Greenfield Village so we didn’t know exactly what to expect. We dressed up as the 4 Ninja Turtles and April O’Neil to get into the spirit of things. We opted for a 7pm start time and figured we should arrive a half-hour early in order to get our tickets from “will-call”, stop at the bathrooms, and get situated before going in. We got a pretty good parking spot at that time and would definitely recommend an early start time because parking was a mess when we were leaving.

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

Once inside you were in a pretty decent sized mob and everyone was crowding around each of the displays for a good view. People began to spread out fairly quickly and only got bunched up around the trick-or-treat spots. Each was preceded by a costumed character alerting us of the upcoming candy so you could fall into line and be ready without much trouble. There weren’t as many candy stations as we had figured… not that the kids need tons of candy but we were over-prepared with our ginormous-sized bags when a small one would have sufficed.

Hallowe'en at Greenfield Village

It took us a little over an hour to walk the village in it’s entirety without stopping to eat or catch a show. I would have liked to stay and watch one of the performances but the kids were eager to press on. Overall this was a great experience and the kids had a blast! This is definitely an event we will attend for years to come!

hallowe'en

Disclaimer: We were given free entry to this event in exchange for our honest opinions. However, we are huge fans of the Henry Ford and probably would have went regardless.